Bob McCall, from Great Britain, loads his kayak with supplies he will need for his 710-mile journey to Ketchikan, Alaska, during the 2022 Race 2 Alaska, which got underway at noon Thursday from Victoria Harbour. A self-described tracker junkie since the first race, McCall decided to enter the race in 2020 and ordered a kayak built in Victoria, but COVID-19 hit and canceled everything. This is the first time he was able to enter and he is looking forward to the adventure. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Bob McCall, from Great Britain, loads his kayak with supplies he will need for his 710-mile journey to Ketchikan, Alaska, during the 2022 Race 2 Alaska, which got underway at noon Thursday from Victoria Harbour. A self-described tracker junkie since the first race, McCall decided to enter the race in 2020 and ordered a kayak built in Victoria, but COVID-19 hit and canceled everything. This is the first time he was able to enter and he is looking forward to the adventure. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Race to Alaska teams start 710-mile trek

Thirty-two leave Victoria for Ketchikan

PORT ANGELES — Some folks take a cruise ship to Alaska. Others fly. Road warriors drive the Alcan Highway.

But only the truly intrepid — and perhaps a little crazy — sail or paddle 710 miles to get there.

The 32 teams that departed Victoria, on the second stage of the Race to Alaska on Thursday, are doing it the hard way. No motors, no support and certainly no business-class amenities as they head to their destination of Ketchikan.

The start to the second stage began at Victoria’s Inner Harbour at noon when the sound of an airhorn sent teams trotting from the causeway to their docked boats. Because sailing is not allowed inside the breakwater, sailboat teams had to use pedal power to get out of the harbor. Teams in kayaks and rowboats with no such restrictions quickly paddled to the front of the pack.

The high winds and big waves that had created chaos for many teams on the first two days of the first stage from Port Townsend died down considerably on Wednesday.

All 19 teams that set out that morning made it to Victoria before the 5 p.m. deadline, with Team Fire Escape from Australia the final finishers to ring a bell on the dock, signaling their arrival.

There is no official course teams must follow as they race north except for a mandatory checkpoint at Bella Bella, B.C. A checkpoint at Seymour Narrows in the Discovery Channel between the mainland and Vancouver Island was eliminated this year, which enabled teams to navigate the Pacific Ocean side of the island.

Unlike the first stage across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there are no support vessels to assist teams that get into trouble on the stage to Alaska. The race organizers work with the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Marine Communications and Traffic Services, amateur radio networks and an online tracker to monitor the teams.

While teams may purchase supplies along the way, eat a restaurant, do laundry or have their boats repaired, they are otherwise on their own. That means no pre-planned food drops, arrangements to be resupplied with water, and hiring private support boats. The goal is to be unsupported and independent as possible.

The first team to reach Ketchikan wins $10,000 cash that is nailed to be a piece of wood, and the second-place finisher receives a set of steak knives.

To follow the action, go to https://r2ak.com.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at [email protected]

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